Horse people tend to operate on a different level of “busy” than most people, but Amy Paulus takes the term to a whole new level.
As one of the most successful rehoming agents for off-track Thoroughbreds in the country, Paulus balances regular visits to racetracks, training centers and farms throughout the country with managing her own 20-stall layup and boarding facility, promoting her clients' horses via her social media channels and checking in with customers who have bought horses through her.
Each year Paulus rehomes an estimated 500 retired racehorses into non-racing homes for their owners and trainers. It's a monumental number, far exceeding that of nearly all other Thoroughbred placement organizations in the country, but for Paulus it is a passion project and she takes a very personalized approach to each horse and human involved.
“I grew up on my grandparents' 250-acre Thoroughbred training farm in Ocala. There was no ‘bombproof kids pony' for me to ride. All we had were Thoroughbreds, so that's what I learned to ride on,” said Paulus, who moved to Kentucky with her family while in elementary school. “As I got older I showed at a lot of the rated shows in Kentucky, first in the hunter ring, and later on jumpers, and always aboard Thoroughbreds.”
As much as she enjoyed competing in the show ring, Paulus was keen to follow her father and grandfather's footsteps to the racetrack. But while their careers centered around the starting young Thoroughbreds under saddle and developing them as racehorses, Paulus was keener to focus on the other end of a racehorse's career spectrum.
“I love racing and being a part of it, but I've never wanted to train racehorses. I've always owned one or two at a time, but I really found my calling as a teenager taking racehorses that people didn't want, riding them and taking them to a few horse shows and selling them. I wasn't making a ton [of money], but it was a heck of an education for a kid to get.”
As she transitioned to adulthood, Paulus continued to balance retraining and selling ex-racehorses with school and later work, but the balance continued to skew more and more heavily toward racehorse rehoming, to the point that it began encroaching on her career, as she was constantly dealing with emails and calls about horses during working hours.
It was a combination of word-of-mouth networking on the backsides of racetracks and social media networking on Facebook that allowed Paulus to make the leap into rehoming racehorses full time four years ago.
Her success rate for finding suitable homes for retired racehorses is unmatched. She visits the tracks regularly to take photos and videos and gather information about the horses trainers are looking to retire. She firsts posts them on her own Facebook group, Paulus Racing and Performance Horses, then after a day or two networks them on the various Facebook groups for off-track Thoroughbreds and horses for sale.
“I have about 20 to 25 trainers that I regular rehome for, and most of them have known me since I was in diapers,” she said with a laugh. “I post them on my own Facebook group first as a way to allow those who follow me to have first crack at any of them, then I network them out from there. Sometimes trainers have a figure in mind they want to get for a horse, but more times than not they look to me to advise on how to price them. I look at how the horses move, how they're built, their size, medical history and explain to the trainer what I think a fair price would be that will get them moved in the timeframe they're working with.”
Her farm allows her to take on several projects of her own as well, such as horses with injuries that will require significant rehabilitation or down time or those whose trainers want to board them away from the track while they're awaiting sale.
“Trainers send horses to my farm to showcase them, as we can get photos of them under saddle or free jumping here. There are also instances in which trainers will give me horses that need significant rehabilitation and once I do the rehab I sell them myself. I usually break even on those, but I really love doing it,” said Paulus.
Paulus takes a 10-percent commission on any horse she sells for a trainer, and requires both the seller and the buyer to sign a detailed contract to protect both parties and the horse.
“My bill of sale is four pages long and I worked with a great equine attorney to make sure all parties are protected. It's a very fair contract that is neutral to everyone involved and really makes sure the buyer and seller are considering everything they should be during the transaction,” she said. “I do a lot of background checking and talking with people to really get to know them and what they're looking for in a horse. If I don't think a horse is a good fit for them, I'll be the first to tell them so, and if a horse doesn't work out for its new owner, I'll re-sell it for them free of charge.”
Paulus is also happy to serve as an agent for horse-shoppers as well, gathering information about what they are looking for in a horse and what their riding abilities are and searching the racetracks for suitable prospects for them to consider.
From her base in Burlington, Ky., Paulus regularly rehomes horses from the backsides of Belterra Park, Mountaineer Park, Indiana Grand and the Thoroughbred Center in Lexington in the summers, then Turfway Park, Gulfstream Park and Palm Meadows in the winter. She often works with fellow-OTTB advocate and jockey Megan Fadlovich, who focuses on northeast Ohio and West Virginia racetracks.
“Megan and I are never in the same place at the same time, but we try to cross-network. Especially in cases where someone comes to me looking for a specific type of horse and I don't currently have it available, I can double our efforts by bringing Megan into the loop, or vice versa, and it ends up working out for everyone,” she said.
She also has a commercial shipper she contracts to transport the horses she sells to their new homes. Once the horses are in their new homes, Paulus keeps up with them in several ways. Many of the people who purchase Thoroughbreds through Paulus stay active with her Facebook group, posting photos and updates regularly. Others she follows up with periodically to make sure the horse is working out for them.
“I keep all of my bills of sale digitally, and each night I go through them and pick out ten and message them to see how their horses are doing and if there's any way I can be of help to them,” she said.
Horses sold by Paulus have gone on to do just about everything a Thoroughbred can do. This year, for example, she was represented in all ten of the disciplines offered at the Retired Racehorse Project's (RRP) Thoroughbred Makeover.
“[Kirsten Green of the RRP] told me that this was the third year that I had the highest number of horses competing in the Thoroughbred Makeover of any rehoming agent or organization,” said Paulus.
“I've made some really good friends out of doing what I do. I'm never going to get rich off of this by any means, but it's very rewarding to know I'm providing a valuable service for the racing industry, people on the show side of the horse world, and especially for the horses.”
Jen Roytz is a marketing, publicity and comprehensive communications specialist based in Lexington, Kentucky. A native of Cleveland, Ohio, her professional focus lies in the fields of equine, health care, corporate and non-profit marketing. She holds board affiliations with the Make a Wish Foundation, Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance and the Retired Racehorse Project, among others. She is the go-to food source for a dog, two cats and two off-track Thoroughbreds.